TECHNICAL DIVE 1
What does all this have to do with scuba-diving? When I read the quote about any bloody idiot getting up this hill, it reminded me of one of the most frequently highlighted and re-quoted paragraphs in Scuba Confidential:
“In scuba-diving, going down and staying down are not the difficult bits
(a brick can do that). Coming up again is the part that requires skill.”
A couple of tragic tales from the world of technical diving illustrate the issue.
In the mid-1990s, a diver in Florida was working her way through the technical-diving levels with the aim of one day accomplishing a 90m dive. She signed up for a full trimix-diver course, and soon found herself joining her instructor and a number of qualified trimix divers on the dive that would fulfil her dream.
The descent was uneventful. The group reached the seabed at just over 90m, and the instructor and the other divers all gathered around and shook the new deep diver’s hand in congratulation.
They later told reporters that she had looked extremely happy. A big smile was clearly visible behind her mask.
They then began their ascent through blue water. On the way up, everybody switched to their first deco gas. The new diver copied her experienced colleagues and, by all accounts, was doing just fine.
After a while, however, the other divers noticed that she had drifted some distance away from them and seemed to be having buoyancy issues. They tried to get her attention by waving, but her face was turned away from them.
She was still breathing steadily, but began to drop deeper and deeper.
Sensing that something might be badly wrong, one of the divers tried to swim down to help her but, by then, she was sinking fast. He eventually had to give up the chase, worried about depleting his breathing gas reserves and increasing his decompression burden.
All the group could do was watch, uselessly and helplessly, as the diver just fell away, down through the murky blue sea, until she disappeared out of sight.
They hung there, eyes fixed on the stream of bubbles that still rose past them from the depths, each hoping against all hope and logic that somehow she would emerge from the darkness and rise towards them, flashing an OK sign.
Then the bubbles stopped coming.
Another dive-team recovered her body a few days later.
TECHNICAL DIVE 2
Fast-forward 21 years and, in a different ocean off the coast of a different continent, another diver was making her way through the technical-diver levels.
She had a 100m dive as her goal. After completing a dive to 70m a few weeks earlier, her deepest to date, she heard on the grapevine that a group of divers were planning a dive to 100m. She asked if she could join them and they agreed.
On her descent, she had a problem switching from travel gas to bottom gas and needed a little help but they all eventually reached the seabed at 100m, where she threw her arms up, fists clenched in a victory salute, and screamed in joy. She hugged all her fellow-divers and babbled in excitement through her regulator.
Decompression stops are no place to let your attention lapse.
After a few minutes, the group began to ascend. At the depth where they switched from their bottom gas back to their travel gas, the diver who had just celebrated the fulfilment of her dream got into difficulty again, and started to float up beyond her decompression stop depth.
One of the team swam over as quickly as he could to attempt to arrest her ascent but, by that time, she was well out of reach and going up fast.
She was still conscious when she reached the surface and screamed something unintelligible to the surface support crew, but she passed out soon afterwards and was not breathing when she was pulled into the boat. Attempts were made to revive her but they failed.